A good avalanche shovel is an essential part of any skiing setup in the backcountry. In addition to skiers, these seemingly small tools can be a lifesaver for hiker, mountaineers, and climbers as well. Among other things, a shovel can mean the difference between life and death when you are high up on a mountain of snow.
As thrilling as it is on the highest peaks seeking out adventure, the danger is incredibly high. Climbers or those who work in the rescue department know better than to judge a snow-capped area by its deceptive appearance. This is why having the best avalanche gear is paramount, including beacons, helmets, and a shovel.
Consider the reasons why you need a reliable avalanche shovel:
- For excavating and digging the snow for a timely rescue.
- Checking the stability of the snow.
- Using it to smooth out a hill for sledding.
- As a platform for a camping stove.
As indispensable as they are, choosing the best avalanche shovel can be a headache. If you regularly partake in activities in the snow or are someone who works in the industry, this is not a problem at all. However, if you are just starting your journey in the adventurous world of skiing, it can take a lot of trial and error to find the right one.
But you can rest your worries. Today we are bringing you four of the best avalanche shovels in this comprehensive post.
A shovel buying guide, as well as an FAQ, is also included towards the end of this post. So be sure to check them out for valuable information.
Let’s get started.
1. Black Diamond Transfer 3 Shovel – Editor’s Choice.
Black Diamond Transfer Shovel Review
Product Name: Black Diamond Transfer 3 Shovel
Product Description: The Black Diamond Transfer 3 avalanche shovel is a sturdy telescoping avalanche shovel. It is excellent in terms of strength, durability, and portability.
Offer price: $54.95
- Anodized aluminum blade for added strength and durability.
- A collapsible and telescoping shaft for added convenience.
- The detachable blade that weighs 692 g.
- High-profile blade design for shoveling maximum snow.
- A hybrid handle that offers maximum grip and convenience.
- Lightweight and compact design.
- Excellent quality and construction.
- Easy to pack and use.
- Very reliable and durable.
- Reasonable pricing.
- Blade edges are sharp, so you need to watch out while packing.
- The collapsible shaft may not be very smooth in some shovels.
- Options for international shipping are limited.
Black Diamond needs no introduction when it comes to shovels and other outdoor gear. They have been consistent with quality, and the Transfer 3 shovel is no different.
This one is made of an aluminum blade, so the shovel is as sturdy as they come. You will love using this shovel for digging, leveling, or excavating. It will withstand a lot of beating like a champ.
A feature that is a standout in this shovel is the extendable shaft. Not only is this feature indispensable while transporting, but it also adds to its overall convenience. The T-grip handle is another feature that we love about this shovel. The hybrid design is extremely easy to handle, but it is also very easy on the gloves. There is no chance of slipping your gloved hands while using this one.
While the blade of this avalanche shovel is a good size, you will also notice that it is quite sharp on the edges. This might require some careful handling while packing, but it is fantastic for use on the snow.
Other than that, this shovel is top-notch when it comes to quality and performance. This fantastic combination is also the reason why it holds the top spot on our list.
Summary of our review.
This avalanche shovel has a fantastic design and construction. It is lightweight yet very reliable, which is a great feature. The material and the design of the blade are great and will come in handy while digging.
Moreover, the collapsible design makes it very travel-friendly, so it is definitely one of the best avalanche shovels in our books.
Read our full review of the Black Diamond Transfer 3 Avalanche Shovel
2. Voile XLM Shovel – Best Value.
Voile XLM Avalanche Shovel Review
Product Name: Voile XLM
Product Description: The Voile XLM Shovel is a lightweight shovel made of aluminum. It weighs about 1lb 2oz and has a total length of 24 inches. The blade is broad, and the scoop is tampered for high-tensile strength. This shovel has a T-handle and a blade that is wide for scooping.
Offer price: $49.95
- 6061 aluminum blade and shaft.
- Heat tempered blade for maximum strength.
- T-shaped handle with ridges.
- Measures 24.25 inches in total length.
- Scoop has a dimension of 13.5×10 inches.
- Incredibly lightweight and compact design.
- A reliable and sturdy blade that is also very durable.
- Easy to pack and transport.
- Detachable blade from the shaft.
- Has a reasonable price tag.
- The shaft is not collapsible.
- Not suitable for use in rescue operations.
- Color tends to chip with use.
If you want an excellent avalanche shovel on a budget, you can’t go wrong with the Voile XLM. This is an outstanding shovel that is as light as plastic but robust nonetheless. Its lightweight property comes from the fact that both the shaft and the blade are made of the same material – 6061 aluminum. If you have been cautious about using a metal shovel because of the weight issue, this is the perfect shovel for you.
In addition to its lightweight and sturdy design, the blade is also comfortably wide. The tempered aluminum scoop ensures that this shovel is also a winner when it comes to strength and durability. You will have no problem shoveling or scooping snow with this one. The shaft features a bright color if you care about the aesthetics of the tools in your gear.
The T-handle also adds convenience and makes it very effortless to use. In addition to its stellar features, this shovel comes at an unbeatable price as well. If you appreciate a good bargain as we do, the one-year warranty from the manufacturer is just the icing on the cake.
Summary of our review.
This avalanche shovel is strong, durable, and very lightweight. Despite its lightweight property, it is also very well made with high-quality materials, which makes it a great choice. In addition, it is effortless to pack this shovel. When it comes to performance, it can give the expensive ones a good run for their money.
Read our full review of the Voile XLM Avalanche Shovel
3. Demon Escape Ally Shovel – Premium Pick.
Demon Escape Ally Avalanche Shovel Review
Product Name: Demon Escape Ally
Product Description: The Demon Escape Ally Shovel has forged aluminum for the shaft and the blade. The shaft and the handle accommodate the snow pick and the thermometer. The snow pick and the wood saw combo has L-shaped handle. A telescopic shaft assists in collapsing the shaft into a compact shovel. The blade of the Ally Shovel is wide at about 10 inches.
Offer price: $69.99
- Collapsible and telescoping shaft.
- Forged aluminum shaft and blade.
- A thermometer and snow pick encased in the shaft.
- Blade measures 10 inches in width.
- The extended length is 42 inches, and the collapsed length is 31 inches.
- A telescoping shaft that is collapsible.
- The blade has a broad and sturdy design.
- Reliable and strong construction.
- Comes with additional accessories.
- Easy to pack and transport.
- Comes with a premium price-tag.
- The lock of the snow pick interferes with the spring in the handle while locking.
- Limited options for international shipping.
Our premium pick of the best avalanche shovels hits the right balance of good performance and quality. It is a total demon on the snow or soil, which truly reflects its brand name.
The blade, as well as the shaft of the Ally Shovel, is forged aluminum. This makes the shovel unrivaled in strength and durability. In addition, the shaft is fully collapsible, meaning that it is packing and transport friendly. Another great feature about this Demon Shovel is the telescopic shaft that allows you to adjust its length effortlessly. Unlike some shovels that are not user-friendly for tall people, this one will work for everyone, irrespective of your height.
This snow shovel also comes with a snow pick, a wood saw and a thermometer in the handle. So despite the premium price of this shovel, it is the addition of such practical components that makes this one a total winner. Moreover, the handle is also sturdy, allowing you to have a good grip on it.
However, the locking mechanism is a bit tricky to maneuver, especially in the beginning. This is because the blade of the saw is a good size, so getting it to fit into the shaft takes a bit of practice. Nevertheless, you get used to it after a couple of uses.
The blade on this shovel is also a standout feature. At about 10 inches in width, it is among the widest blades available. In addition to its excellent features, this shovel is also on the lighter side, which adds to its plus points.
Summary of our review.
The Demon Escape Ally Shovel is a top-notch tool for skiers or simply for use around the house. It is very well crafted, and the quality is fantastic. The shovel is also lightweight, which adds to its convenience. The addition of thoughtful components like the snow pick is something which you will not find in other avalanche shovels. In addition, the shovel is sturdy and reliable, which is everything you expect from a premium tool.
Read our full review of the Demon Escape Ally Avalanche Shovel
4. G3 SpadeTECH Shovel – Best Overall.
G3 SpadeTECH Avalance Shovel Review
Product Name: G3 SpadeTECH Shovel
Product Description: The G3 SpadeTECH Shovel comes with a heat-treated aluminum blade. A telescopic shaft that is also collapsible and TIG welded connector tube constitutes its other parts. The blade has a rounded edge with slots for rescue sled construction. Parts of the D Grip also include the dry stash compartment and a loop for ice-ax while the handle is a T-grip.
Offer price: $47.96
- 6061 aluminum blade and shaft.
- TIG welding in the connector tubes.
- The shafts are fully collapsible.
- T-grip handles but can be swapped with a D-design.
- The dimension of the blade is 10 x 8 inches.
- Excellent quality of the blade.
- Great for digging and paddling snow away from the excavation site.
- Effortless for packing as well as using.
- Lightweight and very reliable construction.
- Not very suitable for heavy shoveling.
- Limited options for international shipping.
This is another shovel that hits all the right spots of the best avalanche shovel. It is made of premium materials, has a fantastic performance, and is lightweight and very reliable.
One of the best features of this shovel is the heat-treated 6061 aluminum blade. This makes the shovel very light in weight, but extremely strong and durable as well. In addition, the connector tube is TIG-welded, which also adds to the overall durability of the shovel.
The design of the blade is another feature that makes this shovel a champ. It has a low angle combined with a rounded edge, which cuts through the snow like a knife. However, the blade is not as wide as in other shovels, but the above combination more than makes up for it. The slotted design of the blade also assists its efficiency in the snow.
Similarly, the T-grip handle is a feature that will make it easy to hold this shovel even for extended hours. In addition to all the fantastic features, the collapsible design of this shovel makes it easy to pack and use. At 22 inches collapsed length, this shovel is also compact, so it is a breeze to pack this one.
Summary of our review.
This snow shovel is robust and lightweight, which makes it an excellent choice for countryside adventures. You will love its excellent quality, but the best part comes from its performance. Whether it is digging or shoveling, this shovel will make it effortless for you. The excellent blade and the hefty shaft do not require a lot of energy or effort for the use, which is the best part.
Read our full review of the G3 SpadeTECH Avalanche Shovel
It is a given fact that the abysmal world of the internet is crammed with many buying guides for avalanche shovels. This is precisely why there is a lot of energy and effort put into our comprehensive post as well as the buying guide.
To give you an idea, here are the criteria on how we selected the best avalanche shovels for this curated list.
Up to 70% of potential buyers consult reviews before buying an item. Avalanche shovels are no exception when it comes to checking out reviews. Online reviews are unique in that these are independent and honest reviews from customers all over the globe. If you are looking for unbiased opinions for any product, there is no better place then to look for online reviews.
This is why reviews from customers are one of the criteria for choosing the best avalanche shovels. Many of the customers who used the shovels have done a great job of leaving their reviews, which have been instrumental in helping a lot of buyers, including us.
Another important criterion for our team in selecting the best avalanche shovels is the build quality. Irrespective of the materials used in the shovel’s construction, the overall craftsmanship and the quality of build is paramount. This will affect the performance as well as the durability of the shovel.
Therefore, we took a thorough look into the quality of each shovel on our list. Inspecting these shovels made us easily differentiate a high-quality shovel from a substandard one.
Price versus performance.
In many instances, the price of a tool does not determine its overall performance in the field. The same can be said for snow shovels.
During our research, we discovered that some shovels that are champions in their performance had very reasonable pricing. On the other hand, some shovels that had premium prices were simply not up to the mark. So, to prevent our valuable readers from being misled into buying the most expensive shovels, we considered the price versus performance as an essential criterion.
Granted, shovels from some lesser-known brands can also be a top performer. But when it concerns your safety on the snow, nothing but the shovels from the established brands will suffice. It is because; these credible brands have been in the business for decades and have perfected the best avalanche shovels down to the smallest details.
So, while we were open to trying out the shovels from newer brands, we did not overlook some of the best brands in the business. And this was an important criterion while curating the best avalanche shovels.
Features to look for in an avalanche shovel.
While it may seem pretty easy to buy a snow shovel, there are some features that you need to consider before you buy one. This is because, many times during your expedition in the snow, you will need to rely on this tool. Instances of a climber getting buried in avalanche snow are very common. In such cases, an avalanche shovel is the first tool that is used to dig out the buried person. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, this tool can be a lifesaver in many cases.
So with that in mind, here are the top features to look for in an avalanche shovel.
Materials in the construction.
One of the primary features in a shovel that you should consider is the material. Shovels made of plastic are incredibly lightweight and weigh less to nothing. Their advantage is that these shovels are very easy to carry and do not require a lot of effort to use. However, plastic shovels are not very reliable, and they can break in the middle of an excavation.
On the other hand, snow shovels made of metal are sturdy, reliable, and will not break mid-use. This is an excellent feature as it can be detrimental if a tool breaks while excavating to dig out someone buried in the snow.
The best avalanche shovels are those that are made of aluminum. These are lightweight but very reliable.
Shape and size of the blade.
The shape and size of a shovel’s blade is also an important feature to consider. Snow shovels that have curved shape and angles will help you cut through avalanche debris a lot quicker. On the other hand, shovels with flat edges are best for leveling a sled path or digging a snow pit.
You also want to look at the size of the shovel’s blade. While a wide sized blade can help you move snow and debris faster, they can also tire you quickly. Similarly, a shovel with a smaller blade can facilitate faster digging and excavating. But they can also take a lot of time to shovel.
In the end, the shape and size of the blade should be determined by which purpose you intend to use it. This way, you find the best shovel without compromising on its intended use or your safety.
The shape of the handle and grip.
You cannot overlook the shape of the shovel’s handle while buying one. The handle is the primary point of contact, and it can affect the overall performance of the shovel in a big way.
T-grip handles are the most preferred shape in a shovel. They offer the best grip and do not cause fatigue in your hands. Shovels with these designs are also glove and mitten-friendly, which is essential in the cold. Another advantage of T-grip handles is that you can adjust it to suit those who are left-handed.
On the other hand, D-grips are very comfortable to use and glove-friendly. They are also called the king in terms of grip and efficiency. However, they are also bulky, which makes it difficult to pack them inside your backpack.
L-shaped handles are light in weight, so they are fantastic for transport and packing. But they are not the best for prolonged use as they can tire your hands.
Hybrid grip handles have the advantage of different gripping positions for both hands. Moreover, the force of transmission is also the best in hybrid grip handles.
Most avalanche shovels have one or more extra features that make them stand out from the rest. These include features such as telescoping shaft with a collapsible feature and provision for adding a snow pick, among others.
A shovel that has an extendable handle is an excellent option for those who are on the taller side and are also better for shoveling. On the other hand, a shovel with a shorter shaft will be indispensable when you are stuck in a tight space.
Some top avalanche shovels also have a thermometer in the handle and slots in the blade for added convenience. These features make the shovel very convenient to use. However, they should not be too heavy, so it becomes a problem packing.
Some snow shovels can also double up like a hoe. This can be indispensable while digging through shallow snow during rescue missions.
Weight of the shovel.
When it comes to the best avalanche shovels, you should not cut back on the weight. Although it feels tempting to go for the lightest one with no problems for packing, a shovel that has weight can expedite digging, especially in rescue operations.
So choose a snow shovel that has some weight without being too much of a burden for packing. A shovel that is too heavy can also exhaust you quickly, and this can mean all the difference while on a rescue mission. Ideally, your shovel should be a good fit both in your hands and in your backpack.
Can I use a regular shovel in place of an avalanche shovel?
No. You cannot substitute an avalanche shovel with a regular one. If this was a possibility, then avalanche shovels would not be made in the first place.
There is a lot of difference between a regular shovel and an avalanche shovel. Some of the most important difference between the two shovels are:
- One, avalanche shovels are much more compact. Most avalanche shovels have a collapsible design, which makes them easy to pack and transport. Regular shovels are neither compact nor transport friendly, at least not in a backpack.
- Two, avalanche shovels are lightweight. In addition to their compact design, these special shovels use lightweight materials in their construction. This is crucial in making them portable and for use in digging and excavation. On the other hand, regular shovels are quite heavy and bulky.
- Three, the blades in an avalanche shovel are designed explicitly for shoveling and cutting through avalanche debris. Avalanche snow is not soft and fluffy like regular snow, so the blade of a shovel needs to be relatively sharp. Some of these blades are also designed to double as a hoe. On the contrary, regular shovels have quite different designs.
What is the best material to choose for avalanche shovels?
As briefly highlighted above, the best material for an avalanche shovel is aluminum. In particular, shovels that are made of 6000 or 7000 series aluminum are best.
This is because this type of aluminum has excellent strength and durability. These are the two primary things that you need in an avalanche shovel. In addition, shovels that have this type of aluminum are also incredibly lightweight. This feature makes these shovels easy to carry and also does not pose any problem, even with extended use.
Another great feature of this type of shovel is that they have less deflection. Therefore, you will have no issues using them for shoveling or digging.
With 6000 or 7000 series aluminum shovels, you get the lightweight property of the plastic. But it also combines the reliability and the sturdiness of a metal shovel, which is a definite win.
What is the best shoveling strategy with an avalanche shovel?
Avalanche shovels are primarily used for digging and excavation. However, using your shovel strategically can make it even more efficient.
Some of the best applications of avalanche shovels according to the different modes are:
- Keep the shovel in a traditional mode if you need to dig deeper than 0.5 meters. Avalanche debris can become hard at a very fast rate. So the conventional shovel mode allows you to dig faster without wasting a lot of energy.
This shovel mode is also the best way to execute a rescue action in an unfortunate case where an avalanche buries a climbing partner. It helps to shovel faster and also chop through chunks. It becomes even more effective when you use your feet to stomp on the shovel.
- A shovel in hoe mode is best for excavation in shallower places. This may include situations of digging out a snowmobile stuck in the snow. Using the hoe mode in a shovel is also an excellent technique for a secondary shoveler in a rescue operation. The hoe mode is also great for checking the snow stability and the profile.
What are the best features of an avalanche shovel?
Amateur climbers wrongfully assume that large blade volume is best. However, every shovel stroke in the snow is as exerting as it is precious.
Therefore, here are a few things to consider when picking a shovel:
- The volume of the blade should be neither too large nor too small. A shovel blade with a size ranging from 8 to 10 inches is a good choice.
- Look for a shovel with an elevated edge like the ones on our list. This will prevent the snow from slipping off and makes the shoveling more effective.
- The edge of the shovel should be relatively sharp. Avalanche snow is notorious for hardening extremely fast, so it is not like regular backyard snow. Therefore, a sharp edge will allow you to cut through the hard snow and debris. However, it should not be so sharp that it cuts through your backpack.
- A shovel blade that converts into a hoe is also a feature that you should consider. This will come handy while digging and clearing to help save a life. However, shovels with this feature tend to be on the pricier side.